SAN ANTONIO – Keldon Johnson scored 33 points for San Antonio, spoiling a career milestone for former teammate DeMar DeRozan and leading the Spurs to a 129-124 victory over the Chicago Bulls on Friday night.
DeRozan had 33 points for Chicago, becoming just the 50th player in NBA history to reach 20,000.
The Spurs improved to 4-2 in what is supposed to be a rebuilding season. They earned their first home win hours after Joshua Primo was waived in a surprise move.
“We’re a family and we stay together,” Johnson said. “We went out on the court and played hard. We’ve been playing hard all year and we continued that tonight.”
The 6-foot-6 Primo was selected by San Antonio with the No. 12 pick in the 2021 NBA draft. He had averaged 7.0 points in four games this season while battling minor injuries.
After the Spurs announced the move with no explanation, the 19-year-old Primo provided a statement to ESPN.
“I know that you all are surprised by today’s announcement,” he said. “I’ve been seeking help to deal with previous trauma I suffered and will now take this time to focus on my mental health treatment more fully.
“I hope to be able to discuss these issues in the future so I can help others who have suffered in a similar way. I appreciate privacy at this time.”
San Antonio shot 53.5% and had seven players score in double figures. Jakob Poeltl had 21 points and 13 rebounds. Zach Collins scored 16 points on 7-for-9 shooting.
Poeltl was 10 for 12 from the field.
“For us, he’s kind of boring the way David Robinson got boring,” Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said. “‘We’d say, what did David do?’ You look at the stats: 24 points, 12 rebounds, four blocked shots, that kind of thing. Jakob does the same thing. He gives it every single night. Very solid. He definitely anchors our defense.”
Reserve center Andre Drummond had 17 points and 14 rebounds for the Bulls.
DeRozan was part of the Spurs’ restructuring when they traded Kawhi Leonard to the Toronto Raptors for him in July 2018. DeRozan spent three seasons with the Spurs before signing with the Bulls.
Known for his mid-range jumper, DeRozan reached the milestone by sinking a 19-footer with 5:43 remaining in the first quarter.
DeRozan served as a mentor to the young Spurs, including Johnson.
San Antonio’s 6-foot-5 wing demonstrated how much he learned in matching DeRozan’s output while shooting 8 for 19 from the field.
“We don’t have a guy who’s going to get us 25 to 30 every night,” Collins said, adding: “K.J. might do that for us this year, I don’t know. He’s been playing great.”
Bulls: G Zach LaVine sat out for injury management of his left knee. Coach Billy Donovan said the Bulls would assess LaVine game by game to determine when he would sit as he recovers from offseason surgery. ... G Ayo Dosunmu exited the game but returned after taking a knee to the side of his head with 9:05 remaining in the third. Dosunmu slipped and struck Johnson’s knee as he fell to the court. He was assisted to the back but returned with 8:26 remaining after clearing concussion protocol.
Spurs: Former Spurs assistant Becky Hammon was in attendance and honored during the first half. Hammon won a WNBA championship in her first season as head coach of the Las Vegas Aces. The Spurs played a video highlighting Hammon’s career as a member of the San Antonio Stars as well as the WNBA title.
Johnson forgot to congratulate DeRozan on his career milestone.
“I talked to him after the game, but it totally slipped my mind,” Johnson said. “I will probably shoot him a text after the game and chop it up with him and see how he feels.”
Bulls: Host Philadelphia on Saturday.
Spurs: Continue four-game homestand Sunday against Minnesota.
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